By J. M. Jackson
(Part 2 of 3 -- Here's Part 1
Doris pulls a package wrapped in reds and greens and yards of tape out of her oversized leather purse and calls her daughter over to her. “Give this to your Aunt Jody.”
Jessica runs back to the bed and drops it on my chest. It’s about the size of a book, but much softer, which is good because I don’t have the energy to read books anymore. I miss reading books.
“Aren’t you going to open it?” she asks. “I wrapped it myself.”
“I’m sorry. I was thinking about something. Why don’t you open it for me?”
She grabs the package and tears off the paper like Tyrannosaurus Rex ripping into dinner. “I picked them out all by myself,” she says as she holds out canary yellow socks with individually colored toes.
“Grandpa told me that when you were little you liked socks with toes and I told Mommy that’s what we had to get you.” She cups her mouth to my ear, “Mommy thinks they’re dumb, but I think they’re great.”
“They’re wonderful, Jessica. Thank you very much. They’re so colorful; I’ll stick my toes out from under the sheets to show them off. Everybody’ll be jealous.”
“Put them on.”
I can’t reach my feet, so I look toward her mother, who checks her watch and comes to my rescue.
“Give them to me; I’ll do it.”
After placing her purse carefully on the room’s sole chair, she takes the socks from Jessica, moves to the foot of the bed, undoes the bottom covers and slides the socks onto my feet. I smile my thanks. Jessica gapes at the process.
“Aunt Jody, how come the bottom of your legs are purple? Did you hit them against something?”
“No dear, they get that way if I stay in the same position for too long. I can’t play around like you and pretend I’m a horse anymore.”
She whinnies a reply and admires the socks.
“Do they tickle your toes?”
“They feel nice and warm. I love them. What a special present they are.” I catch Doris’s eye. “Thank you for putting them on. And thank you for coming and bringing Jessica today.”
Doris’s smile is tight, forced. “Everyone should have company for Christmas. Your brother decided he had to chauffer your Dad and my parents. My brother and his family are coming over too, so we’ve got nine for dinner. Your Dad said he’ll try to get here when the roads aren’t so icy. He doesn’t drive on--
“Jessica, get out from under that bed!”
“Aw, Mom. I was just looking for something.”
“Well, leave it alone. You’ll get dirty under there. Now put your coat on; we need to go. I have to get back and finish cooking.”
I try pleading with my eyes, “I know how busy you are, Doris. Can you leave Jessica with me for a few minutes? We enjoy our little chats.”
She hesitates and I hold my breath, willing her to say yes. “Well, I do need to use the facilities and I want to talk to the nurses about your new socks. I guess she’ll be all right for a few minutes.”
“We’ll be fine,” I say.
She picks up her purse and walks from the room, stops, glances back and goes on her way.
“Jessica, I don’t think your Mom’s going to be long. Quick, get the book.”
Part 3 concludes the story next week
(The story originally appeared in the anthology, Not From Around Here, Are You?)